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Mura Masa's collaborations with figures as prolific as A$AP Rocky and as meteoric as Dublin's own Bonzai have solidified his place among the UK's production elite. We catch up with him ahead of his performance at Bulmers Forbidden Fruit Festival.
“I like to go a bit out of my own comfort zone and into theirs each time, and pull them into my world in the same way. That way you always end up with something that is an interesting move for both of you and it’s progressive.”
Being a distinguished figure amongst a new crop of Soundcloud producers is a freshly alien position for any artist at the moment to be in. While most self-made musicians of the past five years have made the occasional questionable move throughout their rise to prominence, Mura Masa’s surge to the mainstream’s attention has been a seamless blend of anonymity and subtle authority.
The sonic foundations of what was to come were laid down through his self-released mixtape ‘Soundtrack to a Death‘, then further developed upon via the follow up EP ‘Someday Somewhere‘ that intertwined his productional progression along with equally unique vocal talents such as NAO.
Now a new series of singles with high brow features as alternative as Bonzai and as accessible as Charlie XCX. With the likes of Desiigner and A$AP Rocky both working with him, it wouldn’t be naive to assume Mura Masa will have reached his final form by the time his new album drops in July.
With that being said, his ambition to achieve undeniable uniqueness has produced an artist with one of the most varied fanbases around. One that will only grow organically outwards rather than commercially upwards.
What’s it like to produce music that’s wholly individual and unique and have it accepted on such a large scale? Your music is a serious testament to individuality and the power of uniqueness – how something new can really make an impression on other people.
This is an interesting question. I always worry that the things I make sometimes aren’t unique enough. I guess most people’s music taste at the end of the day is different, and the same things that some people consider very unique about my music I might say are basic building blocks just because of my taste.
It’s nice to expose people to new ideas though, whether they’re my own or not. There’s a nice edifying quality to it when you’ve got a platform.
How do you maintain your own sound while working with other artists? How do you approach collaborations in terms of your own input?
I think the key with collaboration as a producer is to try and meet them in the middle stylistically; I like to go a bit out of my own comfort zone and into theirs each time, and pull them into my world in the same way. That way you always end up with something that is an interesting move for both of you and it’s progressive.
How has the rollout of this album compared to the others? It seems like the others were more DIY, putting them out there for other people to see whereas this seems to be a worldwide showcase of your work up until now.
Yeah this is a bit different because I consider it my full length debut. ‘Someday Somewhere’ was an EP, ‘Soundtrack to a Death’ I still consider to be a mixtape. This time it’s just about putting myself out there and giving a mission statement to people. It’s my first exposure to a lot of people so I’m enjoying dragging them into this little thing I’ve created.
What’s it like moving from the spotlight of your bedroom to the mainstream itself, is it weird to have your output remarked upon on such a huge scale? Do you think that it’s a good or bad thing; how easy it is for people to be able to freely release their music via Soundcloud etc.? Does that develop bad habits of rushed releases and not releasing quality standard every time?
I think the jump from making “bedroom” music to more established songwriting is one that a lot of people never try to make/know how to make.
Like you say, releasing music in a self-fulfilling and quick way can lead to saturation or a decrease in quality. I think it’s a choice every artist has to make, how seriously they want to take their project and the ambitions they have for it. And their movements should reflect that choice.
Homegrown projects that are for fun and exploration should absolutely stay that way, but if you want to contribute to the landscape of current music in a more large scale way then you should adjust your output and your strategy accordingly I think. Either way is fine though…
"I would find it much harder to try and stick to one set of ideas or a specific sound. I'm constantly getting distracted and sidetracked by all sorts of music..."
Do you prefer producing instrumental tracks or working with other artists? With such a wide range of collaborators is it difficult to stay on top of all the different sounds emerging or would you find it harder to be focused on a more specific sound?
I would find it much harder to try and stick to one set of ideas or a specific sound. I’m constantly getting distracted and sidetracked by all sorts of music, and it shows in my work up until now for sure.
Just having the opportunity to go with the flow in that way is something great about music and art.
Recent trap rappers’ more experimental styles are that bit more versatile (the likes of Lil Uzi, Desiigner, etc) that they can work with a variety of beats and producers. Do you see it being long before people totally distinguish hip hop and trap/ ‘mumble’ rap?
Haha, people can draw whatever lines and borders they like. I think most are just getting upset because it’s a culture they don’t understand yet, and that upsets a lot of people.
Frank Ocean is a bona fide cultural icon now as a singer and songwriter, does that make him not a hip hop artist? He can still throw a verse down when he needs to as we’ve seen recently. We’ve got to stop stifling new ideas and artists.
What do you make of that scene, especially since you’ve been influenced by both hip hop and trap styles, is it good to see it flourishing or is it negative to the rap scene as a whole?
Again, people are just scared of new shit. They like to try and crush and badmouth movements like this instead of thinking about why they exist and what makes them interesting for the scene.
I think it’s fucking amazing.
How have you found the journey in terms of its effect on you personally? You’ve been featured in some of the artwork whereas before there was always a sort of detachment between Mura Masa the person and Mura Masa the music to those looking in from the outside. Has that been intentional or have you become more comfortable in a bigger spotlight?
It’s an intentional reveal I think. I need to start creating a narrative and giving a bit more of this project over to people. People like stories and characters, and it’s about time I provided that to people because there’s only so far people can invest in music alone.
On top of that, how difficult is it to treat music and performing as a job when there’s constant contact with the outside world via phones/internet, does that really get to you or are you good at maintaining a good balance of both?
I’m really shit at balancing everything. I’ve also worked from home, entirely on my personal laptop this entire time. I really need to get some work/home balance going. I think it’s nice to be lost in that mess sometimes though, it informs the work.
Moving forward, do you think it’ll be difficult to maintain an individual style in the industry, when plenty of incredibly unique electronic producers have been snapped up to do entirely commercial albums and collaborations? I think your links with unique artists such as Bonzai and NAO gives you an extra individual boost that plenty of up and comers don’t have…
I’m not going to worry about it as much as I can, because the best thing you can do as an artist is make things that you think are amazing and pure. I’m not really looking at other people on my level anyway, I’m either focusing on the greatest of the great, or totally undiscovered talent. I think that’s a nice mix of inspiration.
Finally, what do you make of life on tour, have you any plans in place to make sure it all goes swimmingly or are you just going to take it all as it comes?
I just try and keep my head down, remember to try and take it all in while it’s happening and keep good people around me. I think that’s all you can do on tour.
Mura Masa is performing at Bulmers Forbidden Fruit Festival on Sunday June 4. Click here for tickets.